Two of Formula 1's leading figures have accused world championship leader Lewis Hamilton of being 'arrogant', of possessing 'too high an opinion of himself' and of having 'learned nothing' from his Japanese Grand Prix indiscretion six days ago.
The McLaren-Mercedes star did his utmost to atone for his calamitous Fuji Speedway error – when he left his braking dangerously late into turn one at the start, sending cars scattering in his wake – by storming to pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai this weekend, and he acknowledged in an interview with ITV
that 'I don't have to win it at the first corner'.
However, whilst admitting that the British ace has had an overwhelmingly positive overall impact upon the sport since his arrival in the top flight last year, F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone has added his voice to those of some of Hamilton's rivals – ex-McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso and former ally Robert Kubica chief amongst them – who believe the eight-time grand prix winner is making more enemies than friends within the paddock
“He is good for business,” the 77-year-old told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
, “[but] out of the car he is a little bit arrogant. I think he has slightly too high an opinion of himself and that irritates the other drivers.”
Also leaping into the argument has been Flavio Briatore, managing director of the Renault outfit for whom Alonso now races. The outspoken Italian suggested that Hamilton is overrated, and predicted that the 23-year-old could throw the title away again in much the same manner as he did this time twelve months ago whilst in a seemingly unassailable position – what Briatore uncharitably described as an accomplishment worthy of a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
“Now that he has a five-point lead, he could repeat the Guinness trick,” the 58-year-old told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
. “For me, Massa will win the title.
“You should tell him that he is a Formula 1 driver, not a martian. He is not Muhammad Ali. He is a good driver, but you see good drivers also taking results home.
“There are good [football] forwards who always hit the post or the bar and the ball never goes in; then there are those that score, and he hasn't scored yet. Hamilton has learnt nothing. We saw that in Japan.”
Briatore also confessed that he is still bristling from Renault being dragged into the espionage row that rocked the sport last year – an episode from which the Régie
ultimately emerged unpunished.
“McLaren accused us of spying,” he asserted. “We went on for four months with this nonsense that never existed.”